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Dalits Vs Marathas: Misinformation & fabricated narratives must stop
A Facebook post by Prabhakar Sinha read, "India is a strange democracy where the murderer of Gandhi is allowed to be worshipped and Gandhi's death celebrated, but the defeat of the tyrannical Bajirao Peshawa II two hundred years ago is not allowed to be celebrated by the descendants of his dalit victims and is attacked by the descendants of the oppressors."

I find this representation far from the truth. Dalits Vs Marathas skirmish took an ugly turn on Monday which led to large scale violence and vandalism all across Maharashtra. Many politicians got involved in the conflict which changed the entire narrative of the incident. The intention of this article is to present the facts in the right perspective.

The Battle of Koregaonwas fought on January 1, 1818 between the British East India Company and the Peshwas at Koregaon Bhima.

Although, neither side achieved a decisive victory in the battle, shortly afterwards, Mountstuart Elphinstone described it as a "small victory" for the Peshwa. Nevertheless, the East India Company praised the bravery of its soldiers who could not be overpowered despite being outnumbered. To commemorate its fallen soldiers, the Company commissioned a "victory pillar" in Koregaon. The inscription of the pillar declares that Captain Staunton's force "accomplished one of the proudest triumphs of the British Army in the East."

(Source-Wikipedia)

Out of 49 names inscribed on the pillar around 22 names are of Mahars. Mahars despite being untouchables, were highly admired as a soldier community. The Peshawa's army too included many Mahars. In fact, since Shivaji's era Mahars always found employment in the Maratha army. In Indian army too, there's a Mahar regiment in appreciation of the warrior community.

Mahars respect the memorial not because of their loyalties to the British but rather because the memorial for the first time acknowledged the bravery of their community. They consider it as a liberation moment. Thus, interpreting it otherwise as a struggle between Bramhins and Dalits just because Peshwas were Bramhins, is misrepresentation of facts. Another valid point in favour of this argument is that in the Koregaon battle, Peshawa's Muslim soldiers fought against East India Company's mixed army which also included Mahars. Let me also clarify that the Marathas are not Bramhins but rather rural peasants-turned-soldiers.

Congress has accused RSS people especially 81-year-old right wing leader Sambhaji Bhide and pro-Hindu leader Milind Ekbote of provoking the violence. But according to sources, although Bhide is a RSS member, he mostly works for the upliftment of Dalits. On the other hand, Ekbote, a former BJP man, had left the party to form his ultra-Hindu group. Moreover, he has no stake in the conflict between Marathas and Mahara. On the contrary, he intends to unite both the communities to fight against the Muslims.

The dispute between Marathas and Mahars

Marathas claim that their ancestors had conducted the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj, son of Chhatrapati Shivaji. Sambhaji was executed by Aurangzeb in 1689. On the other hand Mahars claim that Govind Mahar had defied Aurangzeb and conducted the last rites of Sambhuji Maharaj. There were demands also to set up a committee to find out who conducted the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj.

How did the riots start?

As per an Indian Express news report, on December 29, a board emerged near the tomb of Govind Gopal (Mahar) Gaikwad citing that hehad conducted the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's son who had been tortured to death in 1689, in defiance to Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb's order. This was objected to by the local Marathas who accused the Mahars of distorting the history. According to the history chronicled by the Marathas, their ancestors had performed the last rites of Sambhaji. Thus, the situation became tense between the Marathas and Mahars near Koregaon.

Later, Gujarat Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani and JNU student leader Umar Khalid provoked Mahars and Dalits by delivering hateful speeches. This sparked off high intensity riotsbetween the two communities.

However, Congress President Rahul Gandhi's tweeted blaming the RSS and calling the violence as a "symbol of resistance" totally changed the narrative of the incident. BJP's political rivals painted the dispute in their own colour to match with their ideologies. Even the mainstream media started towing their line which completely changed the perception of the issue. I feel that the media should always do a fact check before spreading misinformation.

Clearly, this is a ploy of the Congress to divide people for vested political interest. Hopefully the judicial inquiry will unearth the real truth.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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